Radio Waves: WLW at 100, WWVB Upgrades, Ofcom Radio Amateur Data, and Unlocking the Airwaves

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Mike Terry, Dave Zantow, and John Figliozzi  for the following tips:


WLW-AM Begins 100th Year On Air (WVXU)

It wasn’t Cincinnati’s first radio station, but WLW-AM is still the biggest.

Cincinnati industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. began broadcasting WLW-AM over a 20-watt station from his College Hill home on March 2, 1922 – which means that the station is entering its 100th year today.

WLW-AM wasn’t Cincinnati’s first commercial radio station, but it is the oldest surviving station from the 1920s. WMH was operated by the Precision Instrument Co. from Dec. 30, 1921, to January 1923.  WMH was sold to Crosley and merged into WLW, says Randy Michaels, the former WLW-AM programmer and Jacor/Clear Channel executive who is the best radio historian I know.

In 1934, WLW-AM became “the Nation’s station” when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flipped a switch in the White House to activate the station’s unprecedented 500,000-watt experimental transmitter under its Tylersville Road tower. WLW-AM broadcast at “super power” around the clock for five years, through 1939, and continued the mega-wattage output midnight-2 a.m. until 1943. For years WLW-AM has boasted that the 50,000-watt signal reaches 38 states. (I’ve heard the station in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.)

For 99 years, WLW-AM has broadcast some of the most popular personalities in town: Jim Scott, Gary Burbank, Bob Trumpy, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, Cris Collinsworth, Jim LaBarbara, Bill Cunningham, Mike McConnell and Dale Sommers. Before them came Ruth Lyons, Bob Braun, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, newsman Peter Grant, sportscaster Red Barber and comedian Red Skelton.

Although WLW-AM likes to promote itself as “news radio,” it’s perhaps best known for carrying Reds and most Bengals games, plus University of Cincinnati football and basketball and Xavier basketball.[]

WWVB broadcast system upgrades may include temporary outages (WWV)

The WWVB broadcast system is being upgraded with new equipment to improve the reliability of the signal. In order to install this equipment, beginning on March 9, 2021 the WWVB signal may be operated on a single antenna at approximately 30 kW radiated power for periods up to several days in duration, and may have occasional outages. Periods of reduced power operation lasting longer than 30 minutes will be logged on the WWVB Antenna Configuration and Power web page, and any outage longer than five minutes’ duration will be recorded on the WWVB Outage web page. Upgrades are expected to be complete by March 31, 2021.

Ofcom released age of radio amateurs data (Southgate ARC)

Following a Freedom of Information request about the age of radio amateurs Ofcom said they do not hold Date-of-Birth information for many radio amateurs but released what information they do have

Ofcom say “We do not hold a full breakdown of the age of issued amateur radio licensees as date of birth is not a mandatory field for licence applications.”

In September 2000 the then communications regulator (RA) abolished the ban on people under 14-years-old holding a Full amateur licence, since that time a person’s date of birth has served little regulatory purpose.

The data Ofcom released showed they only had Date-of-Birth information for:
7,312 out of 28,845 Foundation licences
4,104 out of 12,127 Intermediate licences
44,944 out of 54,072 Full licences

As of March 1, 2021 there was a total of 95,044 valid UK amateur radio licences.

Download the FoI reply and the available age data at
https://ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/214915/age-of-amateur-radio-licensees.pdf

You can submit a Freedom of Information request to Ofcom online at
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/new/ofcom

Unlocking the Airwaves (UMD)

Unlocking the Airwaves: Revitalizing an Early Public and Educational Radio Collection is a comprehensive online collection of early educational public radio content from the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). The forerunner of CPB and its arms, NPR and PBS, the NAEB developed and distributed educational radio programs and accompanying print materials to schools and communities across the United States. What’s more, the NAEB lobbied extensively to unlock the airwaves—to access precious frequency space—in order to bring the voices of poet Robert Frost, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and conservationist “Ranger Mac,” among many other individuals, into American homes and classrooms.

The NAEB’s history is the dramatic story of idealists who believed in the utopian possibilities of technology for education and social uplift and who faced considerable challenges in pursuit of those goals, including economic depression, world war, and the scarcity of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s a story that has much to tell us about 20th century American culture, as well as the 21st century’s environment of online educational technology and podcasting that we live in today.

Despite its historic importance and contemporary relevance, most of the NAEB members’ programs were never heard again after their initial brief moments on the air. The archives for the radio programs and their related paper documentation have been split for over 25 years between two institutions: the University of Maryland and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Unlocking the Airwaves reunites the split collections, finally realizing the potential of the collections of the NAEB for exploration and and the broader public.

Click here to explore Unlocking the Airwaves.


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9 thoughts on “Radio Waves: WLW at 100, WWVB Upgrades, Ofcom Radio Amateur Data, and Unlocking the Airwaves

  1. Lou

    That Ofcom release wasn’t a surprise and I’d venture to say that the percentages probably mirrors the situation here in the US as well.

    The number of licensed amateurs drops off a cliff under the age of 50.

    Now there might be a chance the numbers might skew younger based on the license data that doesn’t have a birthdate listed but it’s unlikely. There’s enough there to extrapolate but it is Sunday and I’m too lazy to do the hard math on it.

    My point?

    Despite YouTube, the ARRL, and whoever else, we’re facing a real crisis in terms of attracting younger people that’ll stick around. I don’t have an answer. Wish I did.

    Reply
    1. Michael Black

      And kids used to come into the hobby, and later were leaders. We dropped the code, made entry easier, veered away from a technical hobby. The challenge lost for the kids, it made it easier for adults to enter. So thirty years later, leadership is those who came in later in life. They don’t have that shared experience of being a kid entering the hobby, so they can’t speak to that.

      Canada restructured in 1990, but shortly after that was the last time I saw an article in the local paper about the hobby. Some of the clubs have fleamarkets, but they don’t promote away from ham radio. So kids with an interest in electronics (or shortwave radio, if they still are) don’t get a chance at cheap used stuff, or to get some furst hand view of the hobby.

      January 1971, I found the hobby electronic magazines. One that mo th had a ham transmitter on the cover, and a ham column, and much of the staff hD ham licenses. Another had a QRP transmitter that month. Ham radio was part of hobby electronics.so we could lure people already bent in that way.

      In the internet age, it’s so easy to find out about the hobby. But unless you trip over it, in a newspaper or magazine, how would you know it’s a thing to search for?

      Ham radio has been rewritten away from a technical hobby and towards “emergency communication”. So adults get to play at that. But how many kids “want to help others”? More important, how many adults pretending at important work want kids involved? Groups like the Red Cross want “professional communicators”, albeit unpaid.

      Ham radio made me soar away from my last days of elementary school, and high school. The code test wasn’t too hard, the technical test no real challenge, but I was soaking up as much electronics as I could get ahold of. Passing the test was something out of the ordinary. It’s fifty years this month since I read my first issue of QST. Most of it made no sense to me, but I stuck with it, going from comic books to technical magazines intended for adults. And 15 months later I had my ham license, it took that long because until May 1972, you had to be at least fifteen to get a ham license in Canada. I was waiting for that to change, I tried the very first chance I could.

      Reply
    2. Thomas Post author

      For what it’s worth my 13 year old daughter just upgraded to General yesterday. She’s trying to skew the data here in the States! 🙂

      Reply
      1. 13dka

        Wow, congratulations to your daughter! You must be so proud! I think I’m slowly beginning to understand: Having only the bare minimum of radios needed to make due with 4 licensed hams in the house and short of installing a take-a-number system to get some airtime on the limited supply of allmode HF rigs and antennas, you developed a particular interest in POTA and SOTA activations, FYBO and portable gear of all sorts so you get to play radio too, occasionally.

        People, please donate surplus radios, antennas and warm log cabins in NC to a ham dad and his canine assistant in need! 🙂

        Reply
        1. Thomas Post author

          Ha ha ha!!!

          Geneva is certainly a daddy’s girl. She’s wired to love all things science, astronomy, engineering, and even radio! 🙂 My other daughter is a pretty amazing writer and graphic artist. My daughters are twins, but have completely different interests. Interestedly, though, both love learning how to code! 🙂

          Reply
  2. Bob LaRose W6ACU

    Anyone beside me think that common sense would have been to wait until after the start of DST before starting their adjustments. I wonder how many clocks, particularly on the East Coast, lost the already very weak signal so they didn’t get updated?

    Reply
  3. Tha Dood

    A nice read on the history of WLW is the C1971 book, by Dick Perry, “Not Just A Sound, The Story Of WLW” . You may still find that in libraries and used book stores.

    Reply
  4. Michael Black

    Not a good month for WWVB upgrades. DST just kicked in, “atomic clocks” need the signal to adjust.

    Reply

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